7 Things Pokemon Red/Blue Still Does Better Than The Newer Games
The Pokemon series is one of the most beloved game series of all time, beginning in 1996 with the release of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Green in Japan, and Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue in the rest of the world in 1998 and 1999. The series has seen many changes over the years, as each game builds on its predecessors to create an exciting experience.
Despite changes to the game’s formula, it has maintained the key ethos, established by Red and Blue, of a young child setting out on a Pokemon journey, catching Pokemon and battling to strengthen your team. Red and Blue might lack the quality-of-life improvements added to later entries, but they’re special games that capture the essence of Pokemon that’s difficult to replicate.
7 Simple But Effective Designs
The theme of the Kanto region’s Pokemon designs is one that’s simple on the surface yet effective in its execution. Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon, wanted Red and Blue to allow children to experience the excitement he felt catching bugs as a child.
The First Generation captures real-world elements through its Pokemon designs, created by Ken Sugimori, while still adding a fantasy spin that makes the experience appealing to children and grown-ups alike. Take Pikachu (created by Atsuko Nishida), the mascot of the series, for example. Realism is used in its mouse-inspired design and elevated with the addition of its electric features. While the newer games have also taken this approach, it’s most successful in Red and Blue as there were no prior Pokemon designs to compare them to, allowing Satoshi Tajiri’s simple, childhood concept to come to fruition through Ken Sugimori’s creative art style.
6 Childhood Perspective
Satoshi Tajiri’s goal when creating the Pokemon series was to recreate the innocence of childhood curiosity, a concept that runs through the entirety of Red and Blue. Although each entry has continued to build on the premise outlined in Red and Blue, it’s in these games where it’s in its purest form.
Before the inclusion of plots involving Ultra Wormholes and the Darkest Day, just to name a few, Red and Blue kept things basic, mirroring things you might experience as a child, such as bug-catching in the forest. These simple things don’t get overshadowed by an over-saturated plot. Although it’s fun to have a more in-depth story, Red and Blue is the go-to game if you’re looking for a more paired-back experience that focuses on discovering new Pokemon.
5 Stronger Rivalry
In every Pokemon game, you battle with your rival in a bid to prove your strength and worth as a Pokemon Trainer. The first rival to be introduced in the series, Blue is Professor Oak’s grandson and your neighbor from Palette Town. Blue lacks manners and is determined to reach the top of the Pokemon League before you, expressing this ambition by saying he’s better than you.
Blue is the perfect antithesis to you as the main character – where you value the journey (unless you’re a speedrunner), Blue strives for power above all else. In fact, when you reach the Pokemon League and defeat the Elite Four, you find that Blue has already become the Champion. Your final battle with him is the rival battle to end all rival battles as it’s the culmination of both of your journeys. Unlike more recent rivals such as Hau and Hop, Blue doesn’t compromise his goals to maintain a friendship with you – it would be refreshing if new Pokemon titles returned to this.
4 Sense Of Adventure
Partly due to Satoshi Tajiri’s cohesive vision, the adventure you set out on in Red and Blue is one that’s rather straightforward compared to other later entries, giving you the feeling of being a child with a goal in mind. It captures a sense of childhood adventure as you set out from your hometown to challenge the Pokemon League, forming bonds with your Pokemon along the way.
The end goal is never far from your mind and you’re in fact able to visit the Indigo League as soon as you set out on your journey, although you won’t be able to go inside until you achieve all of Kanto’s eight Gym badges. The Kanto region’s map design cements the adventurous spirit, as you leave Palette Town and eventually return at the end of the game to make your way to the Indigo League. You’re now armed with your newfound Pokemon Trainer skills and knowledge, having changed as a result of your adventure.
3 Freedom To Explore
Your aim in Red and Blue is to become the Champion, using the Pokemon you capture along the way. You’re given an element of freedom in how you approach your journey, as you can challenge three gyms, Vermillion City Gym, Celadon City Gym, and Fuchsia City Gym, in any order you like after beating Misty.
This freedom is needed in the newer entries, as the linearity of games like Pokemon Sword and Shield is rather excessive. The lack of handholding in Red and Blue is one of its strengths, allowing you to take control of your Pokemon adventure and explore in the way you want to.
2 Playground Rumors
Before the widespread accessibility of the internet, rumors surrounding Pokemon Red and Blue flew across playgrounds as children discussed what could be found in the games. The most notorious rumor involved Mew, with some players claiming that the mythical Pokemon could be found hiding under a truck near the S.S Anne.
In fact, the developers did sneak Mew into the game’s code, allowing you to catch it using a well-performed glitch. With the increased availability of the internet, rumors have dwindled because they can now be easily disproven.
1 Making The Most Of Limitations
As the game was released in 1996 on the original Game Boy, the developers of Red and Blue had to work around a lot of limitations to make the game so great. This included how much they could pack into the cartridge’s memory – this ended up working in their favor, as it allowed the game’s story to remain cohesive and simple.
Newer games in the series have been criticized for not making the most of their hardware. Pokemon Sword and Shield has come under the most scrutiny for its graphics and animations which don’t live up to other big titles on the Switch. The games have still come a long way from their pixel beginnings, but it would be great to see the series’ full potential be realized.
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